Look For the Pyramid of Light in the Night Sky Known as the Zodiacal Glow

The sky is full of wonders, but many could only be seen at specific times. So don’t miss the triangular beam of light in the night sky called the “Zodiacal Glow”. It only occurs twice a year. So until April 13, look at the western horizon about one hour after sunset. If it’s a clear night, you will see the stunning, almost magical, pyramid of light.

What is the Zodiacal Glow?

Dr. Roy Bishop, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Acadia University, perfectly encapsulates this celestial phenomenon for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. “The zodiacal light appears as a huge, softly radiant pyramid of white light with its base near the horizon and its axis centered on the zodiac (or better, the ecliptic). In its brightest parts, it exceeds the luminance of the central Milky Way.”

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According to NASA, this faint light is actually sunlight reflected toward Earth by a cloud of tiny dust particles orbiting the Sun.

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Joe Rao, an astrology instructor, and writer explains how these particles come to create this pyramid of light. “These countless millions (or perhaps billions) of particles — ranging in size from small boulders to micron-sized dust grains — seem densest around the immediate vicinity of the sun, but extend outward, beyond the orbit of Mars, and are spread out along the plane of an imaginary line on the sky called the ecliptic (a path that the sun follows throughout the year). Hence the reason for the name ‘zodiacal’ light; is because it is always seen projected against the zodiac constellations.” [1]

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There’s evidence that these dust particles come from Mars, the dustiest planet we know of in our galaxy. However, this theory isn’t fully realized because researchers cannot explain how the planetary dust “could have escaped the grip of Martian gravity.” [2]

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Ancient Romans believed that this ethereal glow came from campfires lit far away and below the horizon. Meanwhile, ancient Greeks thought that it originated from volcanoes erupting in the distance. [3]

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How to See the Zodiacal Glow

From about February to April, the zodiacal glow lights up the moonless evenings in the Northern Hemisphere, right after twilight ends. Similarly, in the Southern Hemisphere, this glow appears before dawn, just before the morning light. The zodiacal glow is a hazy-looking pyramid of light in the west, and it’s especially noticeable in the south of the United States. It’s best viewed away from city lights.

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People in Canada or northern areas in the U.S. aren’t usually able to see this glow, but some reports claim that it is possible to witness it there. Additionally, sometimes cameras could capture the faint light unseen with the naked eye. Remember, light pollution obscures many celestial phenomena like this one.

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The zodiacal glow is visible for about an hour after dusk just in the Northern Hemisphere. Keep in mind that in the Southern Hemisphere, the best time to see this light in the evening is in August, September, and October. For now, look out for it just before dawn. [4]

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Keep an Eye on the Night Skies

This isn’t the only celestial show this month. On April 26, look out for the first pink supermoon of 2021. This moon is not actually pink, but it appears larger and brighter than the moon we usually see. Actually, seven percent bigger and 15 percent brighter. It will have an unusually golden shade then turn bright white at its peak, which would be at 11:33 p.m. eastern standard time.

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If you missed the pink supermoon on April 26, you could still see it a month later, on Wednesday, May 26. [5] Until then, look out on the night skies for the pyramid of light that is the zodiacal glow.

Keep Reading: Don’t Miss the Super Pink Moon Coming in April 2021

Sources

  1. “Zodiacal light: How to spot the rare celestial glow in the night sky.” Space. Joe Rao. April 2, 2020
  2. “Look For the Pyramid of Light in the Night Sky Known as the Zodiacal Glow.Good News Network. April 1, 2021
  3. “This Week’s Night Sky: Look for Pyramid-Shaped Lights.National Geographic. Andrew Fazekas. February 22, 2016
  4. Zodiacal light is a glowing pyramid after dark.Earth Sky. Deborah Byrd. February 28, 2021
  5. “A “Zodiacal Glow” Will Appear in the Night Sky Until April 13.” Yahoo Living. April 2, 2021
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Sarah Biren
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Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.